WASHINGTON, DC – Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Chairman of the Environment & Public Works Committee chastised Democrats today for their opposition to S. 131 the “Clear Skies Act of 2005.” The bill to reduce power plant emissions of SO2, NOx, and mercury by 70% across the nation – the largest emission reduction effort ever proposed by an American president – failed to gain a majority in committee by a vote of 9 to 9.
Inhofe and Clean Air Subcommittee Chairman George Voinovich agreed to postpone scheduled markups of the legislation three times in a good faith effort to work with opponents to find a middle ground. While enormous movement was made throughout the process on the part of Inhofe and Voinovich, they did not receive a legitimate counter proposal(s) on any issue from the opposition as of today’s markup.
Senator Inhofe stated, “I am very disappointed today that some on our committee are putting a far left political fund-raising effort over the health and well being of America’s children and our nation’s environment. Senator Voinovich and I made big changes to this bill in order to address the concerns raised by our opponents and have spent weeks in discussions with the minority in a good faith effort on our part to find common ground on this much needed legislation. Unfortunately, that is all the opposition wanted to do - discuss - not negotiate. We have yet to see from their side any semblance of a counter proposal of any kind. It is clear now that our opponents never intended to make real progress; they were only interested in political sound-bites over mandatory carbon caps, an issue which could never clear the Senate floor.”
On February 16th (four weeks ago) Inhofe, Voinovich and Senator Kit Bond circulated a manager’s amendment offering major changes based on concerns raised by the opposition and stakeholders. On March 2 they amended the package further. The manager’s amendment includes:
• Tightening the phase 2 deadlines for all 3 pollutants to 2016.
• Creating an EPA regulatory program to eliminate the risk of mercury hotspots.
• Addressing carbon in a credible way by creating a pool of allowances worth more than $650 million to promote IGCC technology.
• Tightening numerous provisions to further reduce pollution, increase monitoring and eliminate potential loopholes.
“The Clear Skies act is better than current law. It is more stringent than the proposed CAIR and mercury rules coming out this month, and it will save 14,000 lives a year,” Senator Inhofe concluded. “The status quo means more litigation, more costs, and less certainty for businesses and less certain cuts in pollution. I am disappointed that partisan politics has triumphed today over clean air progress.”